The McKENNA families descend from the Mac Cionaoith sept whose territory was in the barony of Trough in County Monaghan. Their progeny was prolific so that McKENNA ranks among the hundred commonest surnames in Ireland, but it is still predominantly an Ulster name and most heavily distributed in the counties of Monaghan, Tyrone. Armagh and Antrim. Early records of the name mention Nevin M'KENZE in Wigtown, 1473. Normand M'KINNIE of Knokdorie was heir to the lands of Lavinchullein in Bute in the year 1662. The name is also spelt MacKENNA, MacKINNIE and MacKINNEY. The surnames in Ireland originally signified membership of a clan, but with the passage of time, the clan system became less distinct, and surnames came to identify membership of what is called a 'sept'; a group of people all living in the same locality, all bearing the same surname, but not necessarily descended from a common ancestor. Adoption of the name by people who did not otherwise have a surname and by dependents was not uncommon. Just over one hundred years after the Norman Conquest of England, the first Normans arrived in Ireland. Richard de Clare, Second Earl of Pembroke (died 1176), was known as Strongbow. He was invited to Ireland by Dermot MacMurrough, King of Leinster, whose daughter he married, to help him in his wars with his neighbours. He was accompanied by several retainers whose names, like his own, have become well established as surnames in Ireland. The Normans established themselves in Leinster and paid homage to Henry II of England. Some of the Norman settlers acquired surnames derived from the Irish. Many Highland families migrated from Scotland to Ireland during the 17th and 18th centuries, and were granted the lands of the native Catholic Irish. People heard of the attractions of the New World, and many left Ireland to seek a better life sailing aboard the fleet of ships known as the 'White Sails', but much illness took its toll with the overcrowding of the ships which were pestilence ridden. From the port of entry many settlers made their way west, joining the wagons to the prairies, and many loyalists went to Canada about the year 1790, and became known as the United Empire Loyalists.
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